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Max Payne
Genre Crime
Year: 2008

Max Payne gets its long-awaited adaptation into film. Anyone that has played Max Payne will agree that Max Payne (2008) captured the atmosphere from the game. The subways, dark alleys and dark light are Max’s world, and translate well on the big screen. However, the story and characters could have been lifted from a script for another film. Max Payne is void of key Payne elements, which would align the adaptation to the video game. The movie adaptation substitutes pain killers for a top secret serum, which provides the main thread for the film. The pain killer aspect of the game works in the world of video games, but would’ve been too far-fetched as a remedy in the live-action version. Wahlberg gives Max some attitude, but it’s closer to Keanu Reeves’s Neo character than the raspy, detective story behind the video game persona.

John Moore weaves a beautiful array of shots together, which complement the dire atmosphere. However, the cinematography doesn’t complement or fill the gaps in the patchwork story. Payne’s quest for redemption is not entirely focussed. There’s a mixture of man-on-the-run and revenge slayings that doesn’t quite add up. The beautiful visuals cushion the blow, but they can’t hide the fact that the story is flawed. The CGI element does take what would be a simple revenge story to another dimension, but loses the rugged, gritty bite of the video game saga. The film isn’t sure if it’s battling bad guys or demons, and this divides its agenda. Wahlberg and the genre would have suited a stylish shoot ‘em up movie in the same vein as Hitman’s treatment. Perhaps the producers weren’t content with such a simple translation, opting for a clunky mix of Constantine and Max Payne. The film is reminiscent of Australian film, Gabriel, which had a similar dark atmosphere and admiration for stylised violence.

Max is played by Mark Wahlberg, whose performance in The Departed probably gave him the momentum to play the tough guy hell-bent on revenge. Hell is close to home in this case, with demonic shadows dancing on the walls of their victims. Wahlberg is supported by Mila Kunis and Beau Bridges with a “cameo” performance from Chris O’Donnell. Kunis tries for a serious version of Milla Jovovich’s character in Zoolander. She’s given the right posse for street cred, but comes off as a Sin City vixen in the end. Bridges goes for a fairly flat role, which comes off as a little predictable. O’Donnell is a middleman and fall guy for the big corporation, and is more of a device than threat. Wahlberg is a team player, and the cast of “lesser-thans” don’t elevate his lead status. He is the big star on this production, but it seems he’s more comfortable with other big star names to bounce off. One gets the overall impression that very few of the production even played the game. The movie sets are right and they include bullet time slow motion, but there’s no narration from our hero. The movie could have passed by as a standard action/thriller with an entirely new title. Max Payne is a movie you can sit through, but style is no substitute for story.

The bottom line: Off-target.

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